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Rare exhibition of Andy Warhol's 'Flowers' ideally sited at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
A gallery room features four silkscreen prints of Flowers, as well as early and later works by the artist from the 1950s through 1980s that focus on floral imagery.

SARASOTA, FLA.- Consummately cosmopolitan and cool, Andy Warhol in the great outdoors seems like an oxymoron. Yet the groundbreaking artist known for his Pop Art multiples of celebrities and soup cans created more than 10,000 images of flowers over the course of his career. Warhol: Flowers in the Factory showcases the surprising, and little examined, role of nature in Warhol’s art and life. The spectacular 15-acre tropical setting of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens on Sarasota Bay will provide a matchless context for examining Warhol’s fascination with the natural world in this focused, immersive exhibition.

Warhol: Flowers in the Factory is curated by Carol Ockman, Ph.D., curator-at-large of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens and the Robert Sterling Clark Professor of Art History at Williams College. It will be on view exclusively at Selby Gardens in Sarasota, Florida, from Feb. 11 through June 30, 2018.

“This stunning exhibition demonstrates in exciting new ways how the richness of the Selby Gardens living collections can enhance the understanding and experience of the visual arts for all audiences,” said Jennifer O. Rominiecki, president and chief executive officer of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.

The centerpieces of this innovative exhibition are four of the artist’s silkscreens entitled Flowers, on generous loan from the Williams College Museum of Art. Begun in the mid-1960s in his studio dubbed the Factory, the series of flower silkscreens represented Warhol’s debut that fall at the avant-garde Leo Castelli Gallery in New York, whose stable of contemporary artists included Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Frank Stella. These striking prints are among the artist’s first works to defy a clear sense of orientation – they have no obvious top and bottom – and meld a range of techniques and media, namely silkscreen, pencil, acrylics and Day-Glo Paint.

Over the years the blooms recreated in the Flowers series have been misidentified as anemones, nasturtium and pansies. They actually represent hibiscus, which grow at Selby Gardens.

Complementing the four hibiscus silkscreens in the exhibition are two prints entitled Poinsettias, on loan from the private collection of Sarasota art patron Flora Major. Created nearly 20 years after the 60s “Flower Power” movement, the works underline Warhol’s careerlong preoccupation with nature.

Rounding out the exhibition will be additional loans of Warhol works from the Williams College Museum of Art, including the Polaroid Christmas Poinsettias (1982), which inspired the prints on view; lithographs Flower (1957) and Happy Bug Day (1954); and artist book In the Bottom of My Garden (1956).

“From his early commercial illustrations to later work from the mid-1980s just before his untimely death, there are many examples of botanical imagery in Warhol’s body of work,” said Ockman. “This exhibition grew from an idea about how to best capture the energy behind Warhol’s commitment to natural beauty and conservation. What better platform to discover and explore these horticultural prints than the Selby Gardens?”

For this special exhibition, the Warhol milieu and aesthetic will take over Selby Gardens, with reproductions of archival photographs of the Factory in dialogue with Warhol’s forays into natural imagery; facsimiles of Warhol’s preparatory drawings that reveal his process for creating the flower screenprints through his signature grids; and select images from the 1960s that recall the “Flower Power” era and provide critical historical context for Warhol’s concerns.

In the conservatory and gardens, vivid plant and floral displays by Selby horticulturists will emphasize the seriality and modular design of Warhol’s work. Like many landscape architects, Warhol was inspired by the repetition of shapes and bright pops of color. Some of the plants to be featured in these dynamic interpretations include hibiscus, periwinkle, bromeliads, poinsettia and sunflowers.

In addition, a food truck will replicate the all-American fare served at the Factory’s opening party, which according to art dealer Ivan Karp, “launched the 60s.”

Warhol: Flowers in the Factory is the second exhibition in the Selby Gardens’ Jean and Alfred Goldstein Exhibition Series, which combines nature and fine arts. The series offers a direct connection to one of the original purposes of the Christy Payne Mansion, which houses the Museum of Botany and the Arts at Selby Gardens. With its founding in 1979, the mansion displays major fine arts exhibitions and relates them to nature and the botanical collections in the gardens. The first exhibition in the series, Marc Chagall, Flowers and the French Riviera: The Color of Dreams, was on view in 2017.

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